Oct. 14, 2017
Cubs Get Past Scherzer As Nationals Fall Short In NLDS. Next up - Cubs vs Dodgers in NLCS
MLB National League Division Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Washington Nationals was a hard fought series for five full games. However, the defending World Series Champs will go on to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Champion Series. For the Nationals, this is their fourth such situation, since 2012, to reach the division series only to see their season come to a close.
Addison Russell, facing Nationals Max Scherzer, to take the lead in the fifth.
If one believes in "every other", the baseball stars were aligned for the Cubs to win Game Five. Chicago northenders won the first game and the series went back-and-forth from there.
However, in last night's game, with the "Keystone Cops" defense by the Nationals behind starter Gio Gonzalez; nor, his wild pitch, help their cause. It was a sign. Well, at least to myself, the game was not going to be in Nationals favor. But, even though the Cubs cut into the three run lead, G Gonzalez got Jason Heyward swinging to hold the Nationals 4-3 lead.
Some felt Gio Gonzalez needed to be pulled after his third. And, manager Dusty Baker did. However, I felt he could go to the dug-out, re-group and go back to prove he could take care of business. But, that's the couch manager in me. Baker called Matt Albers to follow in the fourth; and, he did his job holding the Cubs scoreless.
Then, as much as manager Joe Maddon used his "Ace" in a relief role in Game Four. Baker brought their "Ace" Max Scherzer to relieve Albers. We saw Lester go 3.2 scoreless innings behind Jake Arrieta. Not so much with Scherzer on the hill with only one inning pitched.
Scherzer got his first two outs off the first two batters faced. Then his inning went south. The "Peter Principle" would set in.
Two runners on, Addison Russell slugged out a 2-RBI double to take the lead. Heyward issued a IBB. Javier Baez struck out swinging, but reached on a passed ball on catcher Matt Wieters, run scores and Baez to second on a throwing error by Wieters. Runner to first on Wieters "indifference", to load the bases. Jon Jay, hit-by-a-pitch, another run in. Cubs hold a 7-4 lead to polish of Scherzer.
The Cubs would hold a 8-4 lead before the Nationals made their push. Mike Montgomery relieved Pedro Strop who had two outs on the board, but issued a walk and Bryce Harper to the plate. Harper doubled. The Nationals got back a run on a wild pitch by Montgomery. Daniel Murphy slugged out a RBI double giving the Nationals hope, cutting the Cubs down to two runs, 8-6.
Nationals Michael A Taylor, their offensive player (again) in Game Five. Last night he was 2-4 for 4 RBI in the loss. He and Murphy got the best of Cubs Kyle Hendricks in the second. Top-of-the-order, Murphy slugged out a solo shot. No outs and two runners on, Taylor comes to the plate. He smokes the two-seamer for a three-run homer to give the Nationals a 4-1 lead. His second during the playoffs.
In Game Four, facing Cubs closer Wade Davis who had relieved Carl Edward, Jr. with bases loaded in the eighth. Taylor had his first postseason home run with a Grand Slam to give the Nationals their 5-0 lead and win. Facing Davis again last night in the eighth, no home run; but, Taylor knocks out a two-out RBI single to bring the Nationals within one run.
Davis came back for the ninth, taking down the side, for his third postseason save. Handing the Cubs their 9-8 win in the Division Series. For Max Scherzer, he was handed the loss.
TRAVEL DAY FOR THE CHICAGO CUBS
The Cubs now travel across the country to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. Game One will be Saturday evening, October 14th. Game time coverage begins at 7:00 CST on TBS.
The Dodgers, well rested with this week off. They swept the Arizona Diamondbacks and their last game was the past Monday. Clayton Kershaw will face the Cubs.
Of course, Cubs starter is yet to be announced. John Lackey? I don't look for Jon Lester to make the first start due to Maddon using him (3.2 IP/55 PC) in relief just night before last. Of course, Hendricks is no option, nor Arrieta.
OR, will Maddon consider Jose Quintana? Maddon brought him in as relief last night 0.2 IP/12 pitches. He made his start facing the Nationals on October 9. He would be virtually rested, also. But, coming from the southenders AL Chicago White Sox to the Cubs at the mid-season deadline, he has yet to face the Dodgers.
Master Lackey has faced the Dodgers in his four seasons in the National League. He had been assigned to the bullpen prior to this NLDS. Why? He had a decent September, 2.51 ERA/28.2 IP. Even though, he was never brought to the mound during the series.
His last appearance was October 1. Out of the bullpen in the last game of the regular season with the Cincinnati Reds taking a 3-1 win. Handing Lackey the loss. Against the Dodgers this past regular season, Lackey was 0-2/4.91 ERA. Even though, Lackey does have the "playoff" experience. BUT, facing LA last year in the NLCS, he only went 4 IP and logged a 4.50 ERA.
With micro-managing pitchers by Joe Maddon, now the decision of just 'who' will be handed the ball to face Kershaw. And, I'm sure, the thought of Kershaw struggles during the playoffs will also enter Maddon's mind.
Kershaw's September, he went from a 0.72 in August to a a 3.48 the last full month of the regular season. Facing the Diamondbacks', in their NLDS sweep, at home, Kershaw gave up 4 HR/4 ER/3 BB with fanning seven in his 6.1 IP for a 5.68 ERA.
But, will Kershaw falter facing the Cubs? During this past regular season, he was 0-0/8.31 ERA in only 4.1 IP facing Chicago northenders. And, Kershaw has dealt with back issues on and off in 2016 and 2017.
So much to consider in a short time period. However, I feel, this is going to be an interesting NLCS Game One, in my opinion. Cubs bullpen is worn out, starters questionable. But, that's baseball and we shall see how it goes.